Last summer, after studying Chinese for five years, I finally went to China for the very first time.
Through the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Chinese Language Flagship scholarships and recommendations, I landed a spot in the Associated Colleges of China Beijing program located on Minzu University’s campus. Before starting the course however, I thought it would be beneficial and fun to backpack some of China to get a good feel of the culture because I had never been before.
For two weeks, I took trains and planes from Beijing all the way down to Hong Kong and back. I saw so many new and incredible things, and interacting with everyone really helped put into place all the language and culture I’d been studying for the past few years.
Back in Beijing, I started my program and made quick friends with my classmates and instructors. Their biggest goal was really just to facilitate my experiencing their city and culture and so they were very helpful, showing us where grocery stores were and how to buy metro fare cards. We did lots of city outings where they showed us museums, parks, and restaurants.
It became a mission of mine to take a photograph of anyone I caught sleeping on the buses. Later, we went on a 4-day trip to Luoyang, and I finally had to opportunity to snap a sleeping picture of my program director. Without a doubt, this picture made it into the program slideshow at the end of the course.
My time in China spent with the locals there forever changed my life. Coming back now to UH, I see more clearly how the language I’m learning fits into the context of a larger idea of culture.